Security association head says they’ve become ‘scapegoat’ to MIQ issues as Govt announces NZDF personnel boost

Source: 1News

The head of the security association says the Government is using private contractors as “a bit of a scapegoat” when it comes to issues surrounding managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

NZ Security Association chief executive Gary Morrison said the industry was disappointed by today’s announcement that 500 extra Defence Force personnel would be deployed in the facilities.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government intended “to stop using private security contractors, particularly in the riskiest places such as entry and exit points and public areas, and replace them with Defence Force staff”. 

She said it would “raise accountability and give more central control over procedures”.

Mr Morrison said about 500 to 600 people could be out of work within the next three to six weeks as a result.

“We're very disappointed and upset by the lack of communication … around this,” he said.

“As of yesterday we were informed or advised that it would not proceed. So, to hear that announcement today was very disappointing for us."

However, Ms Ardern said increasing the numbers of NZDF personnel at the border was a plan the Minister in charge of managed isolation, Megan Woods, had been working on for “some time”.

But, Mr Morrison characterised it a different way.

“To be honest, I think we're being held as a bit of scapegoat around the whole issue,” he said.

Mr Morrison said private security firms had delivered “a good service” at managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

That’s despite revelations yesterday a security guard posted an image of a list containing the names, room numbers and arrival and departure dates of 27 returnees staying at a managed isolation facility to a private Snapchat group.

It also included the names and room numbers of five staff members.

The guard was on shift at the Sheraton Four Points managed isolation facility in Auckland. 

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, who is in charge of the managed isolation and quarantine facilities, also said earlier this month there had been seven instances of guards at the facilities falling asleep on the job. 

Meanwhile, National leader Judith Collins said the switch to NZDF personnel was “an admission of failure” on the Government's part.

Ms Collins said it was clear there was “no confidence in the system as it had been working” as a number of agencies, including police and private security firms, were initially tasked with providing security at managed isolation facilities.

Mr Morrison said incidents of “service breakdown” were “isolated” and “addressed very quickly”.

“And we do take it as an insult as to the effort and the dedication that those staff have shown to their roles.”

But, he wasn’t criticising the NZDF.

“But, I don't necessarily know that they will do any better than the security providers currently in those roles,” Mr Morrison said.

Defence Minister Ron Mark also acknowledged this afternoon there were some shortcomings to using NZDF personnel. 

As they aren’t police, they have less legal powers and cannot detain or restrain people, he said.

Mr Mark said he was also keeping an eye on NZDF resourcing.

“People don't understand that successive Governments have wound the military down to rock bottom levels.”

He said the military would bring “some rigour and some discipline and dedication to systemised approaches”.

“The simple presence of military people on site does tend to increase public confidence. It does tend to increase the level of public compliance.

“It has a generally positive effect for the rest of the nation having the comfort of knowing that our military personnel are there doing the job.”